Introduction: The Easy Way to Cut Your Ferret's Toenails

Picture of The Easy Way to Cut Your Ferret's Toenails

A handy trick to easily cut your ferret's toenails without needing a second person, without scruffing, and without a struggle!

We run a ferret shelter and often have over 400 toenails to cut every three weeks. This handy trick will allow you to take your time cutting your ferret's nails so you won't have any nicks and you can keep the QuikStop in the cabinet where it belongs. This will show you the appropriate and easiest tools to use to cut your ferret's nails.

Step 1: Trouble Cutting Ferret Toenails?

Picture of Trouble Cutting Ferret Toenails?

Does it always take two people to trim your ferret's nails? Does she squirm and make things difficult? Try the following steps!

Step 2: Get Your Cutting Tools Ready!

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In order to cut your ferret's nails you will need a pair of nail clippers. The small "cat" clippers shown are the easiest to use because they cut the nail from the side. Using dog-style guillotine clippers causes the nail to splinter at the ends and often makes it too difficult to not cut into the quick (the pink part that bleeds all over if you cut it). Some people use human toenail clippers, but I find they are awkward when holding a ferret and cutting from the side. Small cat clippers are the tool of choice.

You'll see some stypic powder next to the clippers on a paper towel. If you are not sure of your ability to cut your ferret's nails, keep this around in case you do hit the quick. It will stop bleeding almost immediately. Corn starch can also stop bleeding, although not as quickly, should you need it.

Step 3: The Most Important Added Step

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If you've ever had a ferret, you've probably have experience with ferretone. Ferretone is a product that ferrets love so much they do almost anything for it. If you use this to keep your ferret's attention, you can easily work with their nails. You'll notice how the ferrets enjoy the bottle. Ferretone by 8n1 or Marshall's version are readily available at most pet stores or online pet suppliers. I have found that most ferrets prefer the Ferretone 8n1 flavor over the Marshall's brand.

Step 4: Select a Ferret and Grab Your Ferretone

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Here is Finnigan, you'll notice he is already interested in the bottle.

Step 5: Assess Nail Condition

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If you are new to nail trimming, be sure to look at your ferret's nails. You will notice there is a white longer part and an inner pink area (called the quick). You will want to trim the white part as close to the pink without cutting into it as possible.

If your ferret's nails have sharp points at the tips, you need to trim them more often. Ferrets should not be allowed to grow their nails to a sharp point. Notice in the picture that the tips are long, but blunt.

Step 6: Nail Diagram

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If you are still unsure of where you cut, use this diagram to help you.

Step 7: Back to Finnigan! Prepping the Ferret.

Picture of Back to Finnigan! Prepping the Ferret.

Hold your ferret with your less dominant hand so he/she is cradled as if he/she was a baby. With the other hand, pour some ferretone onto the ferret's belly. If your ferret doesn't realize what is going on, use the tip of the bottle to lead his/her nose into the puddle of goodness on his/her stomach. Licking should begin immediately. Quick! Put the bottle down and grab the clippers!

Step 8: Begin Cutting

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Still cradling the ferret, use the cradling arm to hold out the ferret's back foot . Use the clippers to easily clip the nails while the ferret is licking off the ferretone. You can take your time and not worry about any sudden movements while you are clipping. If your ferret licks off all the 'tone before you are finished, just add more. Clip the back nails in this way. I find turning the ferret around in my arms helps me to do the opposite-side nails more easily. (See video at the end for a demo!)

Step 9: Front Nails

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Continue on to the front nails until all 20 nails are finished. Look he's still licking!

Step 10: When Finished

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When you are finished clipping, you may even find that when you put your ferret down, he/she is still trying to lick off the ferretone. If you have other ferrets around, they may come over to try to get a taste too.

Step 11: Finished! on to the Next Ferret!

Picture of Finished! on to the Next Ferret!

Look at those short nails!!

Step 12: Without Ferretone Demo

Clover the shelter ferret is not very excited about what is going on right now and she wants to stick her head right inbetween the clipper blades. She even lightly grabs my thumb letting me know she is not happy about the process.

Step 13: Compare to How Easy It Is With Ferretone!

This is Mr. Roco in the video.

Step 14: Good Luck!

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All photos were taken at the Emmett Ferret Shelter using shelter and ambassador ferrets of the shelter. No ferrets were harmed in the making of this video.

Good luck and may you have much success in your ferret grooming process!!


Jamie Kellison made it! (author)2015-12-28

I can't see the steps mentioned...but I see a lot of comments mentioning ferretvite/tone on the belly so I assume it's something along those lines. Please, PLEASE do not use that stuff,, your ferret WILL get insulinoma from it eventually and that is a fatal, permanent disease only temporarily treatable until it isn't. Bad even as a rare treat. Ferretone has several cancer causing ingredients. Furo and ferretvite are both all sugar, ANY sugar for these delicate obligate carnivores is bad no matter how rare it's given. All non-meat or sweet treats do is hurt their health and make US feel special, they don't need it. The junk builds up and it takes little to push their small pancreas over the edge, then what is done is done.
Unfortunately one of my first ferrets paid for this, I fell for the lies about it being a high calorie supplement for the first year I had them. It's very low calorie actually, and to get the calories it states, they'd need to eat a strip 300 feet long.
I stopped giving that and we went to a balanced raw diet after my vet told me to toss that stuff because it's all sugar. He's a specialist vet, mind. Two years later Cooper was diagnosed with Insulinoma at the young age of three. For those who think that's old, well cared for ferrets fed a proper diet can live to be in the teen years easily. He likely wont live that long even on the perfect diet with no sweet treats because they just stop responding to meds eventually. It's horrible, and caused by those supplements and lies people are fed by the creators.

Use 100% pure Alaskan salmon oil, emu oil, krill oil or any other pure protein type oil.
Also keep in mind it's something they need to get used to because ferrets imprint on food. They don't always go for stuff, but they do unfortunately have a sweet tooth! Gently rub some of the oil on the gums and tell them they're good, get them to taste it as you would a new kit getting used to new food. Repeat a couple times per day, they should learn to go for it.
The most popular one is salmon oil. Easier to get, you can get it online too(check ingredients, should be nothing but pure oils, some other additives can be toxic). You put some on the belly and lean them somewhere on a couch, chair, or a convenient lap with a towel under them and get down to clipping. After they start liking the oil, it's usually simple as dribbling a bit on and leaning them over. It's a wonderful trick, but you have to watch out for yanks. Some still will twitch feets, especially if they're ticklish or don't like their feet being touched.

Pure animal protein type oils that is, no plant-proteins. =)

Msdots (author)2015-05-18

Furovite is sticky but also works well on tummy. Or even a bit of hairball lax treat during shedding...

msandidge1 (author)2014-05-12

My ferret won't even try it

msandidge1 (author)2014-05-12

My ferret won't even try ferretone, treats, or anything else. what do i do now?

nightninja87 (author)2010-05-07

i seen  a video where the women held the ferret by the nape of its neck like a mother cat or mother dog and it went calm and stayed there would that work too if you had someones help?

Wheatermay (author)nightninja872012-11-04

Yes, but it requires to people. They are showing how to do it with one! :)

Klia Willow (author)2012-10-12

I always have to wait until 2 sets of hands are around....thank you for this fabulous tip!!

szraccoon (author)2011-10-13

WORKS SO WELL!!!! thanks for the tip

cdonté (author)2011-07-08

I have always used human cuticle cutters. They are the perfect size and have a slight angle to them which helps!

jones.5pc (author)2011-01-08

You dont need 2 people to click a ferrets nails. I sit down in a chair with my ferret and put the ferretone on his tummy. then put him on his back on top of my legs. the crevice between my legs keeps him from rolling off. then I clip his nails. If he starts to squirm I add a little more ferretone. I keep adding tone and clipping nails until I clip all of them. I dont need anyone to help me clip them. I've owned 3 ferrets, I currently have 2. scuffing doesnt work on my girl. She's 3 years old but the size of a kit. Until I started using ferretone it was incredibly difficult to clip her nails, now she is a little angel

ferretlady (author)2008-08-09

This is a great instructable, but the cut line on this diagram is misleading. Ferret toenails should be cut so that the new flat tip is parallel to the floor when the ferret is standing. See the diagram at

lbaran (author)ferretlady2008-08-11

Although it should make sense to do that, it doesn't allow enough of the white part to be cut back at one time. We cut our ferret's nails (and shelter ferret's nails) as we would when showing them. 1/8th inch of the white remains before the pink.

uriahmsos (author)lbaran2010-10-14

Hi, i strongly agree with you in which nail clippers to use. Much quicker and a smooth finish, i cant imagine how uncomfortable it must be when akwadly cutting with human nail clippers, ouch. May i ask where about you are from?

ferretlady (author)lbaran2008-08-12

Warning- argument about minutiae ahead! Of course I understand that you guys have to do what is most expedient when trimming so many ferret's nails (I also work at a ferret shelter, so I understand!), but for most owners, trimming a few ferret's nails slightly more often is not a problem, and if it makes walking more comfortable for the ferret then I think it's worth it. I'm guessing that you buff nice rounded edges when showing ferrets, which most owners won't need/want to do. In that case wouldn't it make more sense to move the pressure point to a place closer to the natural tip of o ferret's nail? I learned about the proper cutting angle from an article written by a ferret expert that was published in one of the national ferret magazines. It has since been corroborated many times by the owners of other large ferret shelters. Google: ferret "parallel to the floor" to see more sources.

Ms.Stabs (author)2009-03-29

I use the 8 in 1 Ferretvite, All my ferrets love it. I prefer to use people toe nail clippers but thats only because I have three ferrets.

uriahmsos (author)Ms.Stabs2010-10-14

You prefer to use peoples toe nail clippers, oh dear, i would be surprised if your ferrets nails have not split already, ouch. I cant imagine the inconvience it would cause the ferret having a split nail. Painful. The best and recommended safe way to cut ferrets toe nails is to use nail clippers specially designed for their rounded claws,you can pick these up at a very reasonable price (ask your vet or at a pet shop, they should assist you). If they are a little pricey that should be fine as they should last you a long time and they should not blunt so quick. I have three ferrets myself, (i find the males nails quite tough, but hes a big strong boy) and i put ferret tone on their belly, spread out their toes and cut off their nail making sure not to cut the quick (the pink) 8 in 1 Ferritive my ferrets love alot also, just like your fuzzies :)

Christinna (author)2009-04-22

BTW, I LOVE your ferret shelter logo. It's adorable!

Christinna (author)2009-04-22

I was very happy to find this Instructable's. Thank you! However, I've never been able to master the art of trimming nails while standing, even with "tone". What works best for me is to sit and place the ferret on his/her back in the "crack" of my lap so they don't roll or move around. This way, there's no need to juggle to get to the other side. Also, I keep a sqeaky toy on the table to call the next ferret (if they're not already swarming my feet to get to the "tone") to their nail trimming session. I trim my deaf ferret's nails first, lol. Thanks again! ~Christinna - Mommy to 10 personal ferrets and volunteer for the Texas Ferret Lover's Rescue.

ktrose (author)2009-04-02

My ferret doesn't like ferretone... he doesn't like treats in general really, but ferretone especially. we got that goo all over our fingers trying to get him to try it. we put it on stuff, we "left it around carelessly", etc. Even the one or two treats he's liked, he will only accept begrudgingly. :(

The KNex Weasel (author)2008-08-24

Ooh. I'm glad this Instructable exists. My ferret NEVER lets me trim her claws except under absolute certain conditions.

ferretlady (author)2008-08-09

I know a lot of people use these cat clippers, but i greatly prefer using flat-edged human toenail clippers. I feel it's easier to get the correct cutting angle, and would be impossible to take off a toe if the ferret thrashed. But whatever works!

lbaran (author)ferretlady2008-08-11

Not me, small cat clippers are my preference. When we have over 400 toenails to cut, we can accurately and quickly cut the nail without needing to concentrate on getting the pressure for the human-type correct. The scissor type movement of my hand is also much easier on my wrists than the human style which requires some up/down pressure. Everyone has their own preference. Just from experience I find that human-style nail clippers leave more jagged edges. The cat clippers tend to make a smoother cut, so you don't need to buff them (unless you're showing). When we have 30+ ferrets to do, I find the cat style is really fast (once you get confident and have some practice). Usually it takes about 20 minutes to do 30 ferrets, but with us speed is a necessity.

ferretlady (author)lbaran2008-08-12

Yes, the human clippers have to be sharp, or they do break the nail more, but for me, the motion is much more comfortable than the scissors. TETO!

ferretlady (author)2008-08-09

Thank you for all of your hard work on behalf of ferrets!

ferretlady (author)2008-08-09

This is a great instructable, but I find it so much easier to lay the ferret in my lap so that I have both hands completely free. See my (very similar) method at :

shyrell (author)2008-06-29

O, this is the greatest! I have 5 inside cats right now and 4 are not quite 12 weeks old yet. I went right out and tried some canned salmon with a little juice. At first I put it on this one cat's belly. That worked for her front paws. Then I put the fish down on the spoon. While she was busy with that, I clipped her back claws. This is so great. This one little girl is a biter and scratcher. Not just playing. She really hurts everyone. I've had to spent some one on one time with her to break those nasty habits. So this instructable worked wonders for me. Thank you so much for posting. Shyrell

padawanspider (author)2008-06-03

Do cats like ferretone/ is it safe for them? Otherwise I might try rubbing catnip on their bellies... but that might make them more high-strung... dunno. *shrugs*

lbaran (author)padawanspider2008-06-03

I'm not 100% sure if cats like ferretone, but they may like other things like Nutrical or a cat hairball treatment that tastes like chicken. My cats don't really like ferretone, but linatone is made for dogs/cats and some do like it. It would be worth a try to see if you could find something your cat likes. Remember though that cats can't bend quite as far as ferrets, so you'd have to see how flexible he/she is. I'd be interested to know your results!

Yerboogieman (author)2008-05-11

next you should do how to cut a birds toe nails, my birds need it

tackam (author)2008-05-11

Great tip. This will work for some cats and dogs as well.

DesignerUserName (author)2008-04-17

Weez would kill me if I tried to clip his nails. And Ferretone is the most rancid, bitter, god-awful substance that I have ever (accidentally) tasted. Blech!

ysabet (author)DesignerUserName2008-04-23

Oooh yeah, tastes awful, doesn't it? But not to the fuzzbutts. I've done this before and it works wonderfully. As far as your Weez thinks, you'll be giving him a treat-- my three (Kit, Tan and Chai) get impatient for their turns at the clippers.

kindn3ss (author)2008-04-16

awesome... I'll do this with my 5 ferrets. :) this is so cool. I've done it manually without any ferretons or anything else, and it worked. but maybe this ferreton will make it easier for me. :) are there any more topics on ferrets on this portal?

lbaran (author)kindn3ss2008-04-17

I hope to do a few more tips and tricks soon when the spring fury of adoptions and turn-ins slows a little bit. :) Do you have anything you might want a tip for?

kindn3ss (author)lbaran2008-04-20

I'm sorry but I've forgot to tell you that the very first thing I tried when I got from work on the day I first read your tip regarding the Ferreton, I have tried it on Sniffles (she's deaf but the best in the team and the most energetic). She happened to have the longest nails and she wouldn't even be bothered at all with the fact that I was cutting her nails. My wife was astonished. She couldn't believe it. :) Thank you for your advice. P.S! My name is Marius and is nice meeting you... (what was your name? :))...)

kindn3ss (author)lbaran2008-04-20

thank you for the respond. I'm sorry but I have a couple of e-mails and not all of them are being checked on a daily based (this happened to be one. :(). Anyway, yes, I do want some tips for Iceberg, Wildfire, Starlight, Teddy Bear and Sniffles. As soon as I take them out of the cage (you know, after I come back from work and in weekends) they will go everywhere in my apartment and doing their needs (pooing in all the corners in the house). Also, if I close the door from my room (I usually let them in the living room to play out of the cage when I want to take some rest), they will dig in the carpet and somehow break it... They will also jump in my office and everything I have on my office, are soon to be on the floor. Nothing bothers me much because I love them like crazy. They are really wonderful little creatures and they do make my life shinning. Thank you for your time and hope I'll hear something soon from you. If there's anything I might help you with, please don't hesitate to ask and I'll be happy to...

xxgemini (author)2008-03-28

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Thats how I clip my Fuzzys nails... Works great. But he stoped eating the feritone once he got a taste of Marshall Ferret Cant give him too much or he poops everywhere! Great Instructable this will help a lot of people :)

Gjdj3 (author)xxgemini2008-04-05


duck-lemon (author)xxgemini2008-03-28


Jural (author)2008-04-03

I have never owned a ferret but I know my dog hates having her toenails clipped. I use a dremmel tool with a sanding drum and that works very well. No snagging the carpet afterwards. It rounds the nails and is much less dramatic.

cfishy (author)2008-03-28

This is awesome. I wanna see if I can try something like peanut butter on my dachshund dog. She always gives me the death struggle and it took three people to get her nails cut. Dachshunds have black nails so it's impossible to see the quick from the sides. does the animal get upset when you cut into the quick and make them bleed? i'm always afraid of that. One tip: keep the nail clippers sharp would help, too.

lbaran (author)cfishy2008-03-31

If you do cut the quick, it does hurt them, but not severely. It is similar to when you get a hang nail and it goes a little too far down. Smarts a little bit, but doesn't send you to the hospital or anything. Do Dachshunds bend in half well? You might be better off with peanut butter on his/her forleg instead of the stomach. They don't seem all that flexible, but I could be wrong.

SizzleBacon_12341 (author)2008-03-31

Great instructable , I might get a ferret soon so I need a lot of info

lbaran (author)SizzleBacon_123412008-03-31

Any time.. I'm hoping to put together a few more ferret related tips and hints instructables. I hope they help out future ferret owners. Thanks for the comment!

livestrong2431 (author)2008-03-30

Wow, i don't even own a ferret but this guide was still very fun to read! GREAT WORK!

RFilyaw (author)2008-03-29

A valuable guide. There's little more grating than the clickity clickity click of a ferret doing his weasel war dance across the kitchen floor. We use that same nail clipper on our cats, as well. I think we actually bought it for the ferrets, but it works nicely for both.

elephantgun (author)2008-03-29

Good information, Thanks ! Oh and what a beautiful young lady in the pictures. Leah

hedgiehog (author)2008-03-28

I have hedgehogs and they are really annoying to cut their nails. I takes one person to cut and another to stop it from squirming.

gamer (author)2008-03-28

those are so friggin' cute! now i wanna get one! nice instructable, for those who have one and who have trouble cutting their nails. -gamer

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